Letters to the editor

Aug. 27, 2013 @ 12:23 PM

Why I went to the prayer vigil

Everyone knows that our immigration system is broken. With millions of undocumented immigrants living in the shadows, the status quo isn’t working for families, workers, honest employers or even the U.S. government.

Earlier this summer the U.S. Senate passed a version of comprehensive immigration reform that will benefit millions of immigrant families and make our communities stronger. The U.S. House of Representatives, however, seems set on trying to avoid this commonsense solution and instead pursue piecemeal, punitive efforts.

On August 25, about 100 Durham residents and faith leaders from seven different traditions gathered at the People’s Plaza to pray for our elected officials. As people with different stories, different colors of skin, even different faiths, we were united in our hope that Rep. G.K. Butterfield, Rep. Howard Coble, Rep. David Price and their colleagues in the House will support a just and moral immigration reform that offers a pathway to citizenship, unifies families, supports workers, and moves us forward together.

Here in Durham and across the state, faith communities are first responders in the midst of this immigration crisis and we will continue to fight every day until real reform is enacted.

Chris Liu-Beers

N.C. Council of Churches


The cost of prison vs. education

Last week, the Rand Corporation released “Education and Vocational Training in Prisons Reduces Recidivism, Improves Job Outlook.” This is a comprehensive look at inmate education and links to recidivism. It should be of interest to cost-conscious legislatures, taxpayers and community advocates.  The bottom line:  Inmates who receive academic and/or vocational training are 43 percent less likely to recidivate than those who don’t.  An investment of $1 has a return of $4 to $5 when looking at re-incarceration costs.  Nationwide, about 40 percent of those released from prison are returned to prison within three years.  The social costs of incarceration to inmates and families were not addressed.

North Carolina had a long history of providing post-secondary inmate education until about three years ago.  The state legislature decided for budgetary reasons no longer to fund post-secondary prison education through community colleges.  I can appreciate the sentiment of those making these decisions.  But just because there are no easy answers does not mean we in North Carolina should stop trying to find ways to fund prisoner education.

A model in Kentucky warrants review.  Inmate commissary profits offset part of the cost of post-secondary education.  The inmate pays a small amount and the commissary profits fund the remainder.  This allowed a number of students to continue in a manner where they were receiving college credits.

No matter how it is funded, it is time to address this dilemma. The ROI is too large to continue to ignore.

Art Beeler